Tanzanian opposition says 40 volunteers arrested after election

(Reuters) – Tanzania’s opposition Chadema party said on Monday police had detained 40 of its volunteers after presidential and parliamentary elections at the weekend, an incident marring a broadly peaceful vote that the ruling party said it won.

Another opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), said police fired tear gas at a crowd of supporters celebrating what the party said was its victory in Sunday’s race on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar.

Tanzania has been one of Africa’s most stable democracies, with the CCM in power since independence from Britain in 1961, although Zanzibar is a hotspot for tensions because of strong local opposition and Islamist and separatist movements.

Official results are not expected out until later this week.

The CCM party, facing the most hotly contested race in more than five decades, said its tally from monitoring polling stations showed it had retained a parliamentary majority of 176 out of 264 seats, so far.

CCM campaign official January Makamba said ruling party candidate John Magufuli was also on track to win the presidency.

The opposition disputed this. Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who defected from CCM three months ago to run as the opposition candidate, urged the election commission to release full results “not partial results from constituencies that favour the ruling party”.

Chadema, a party in the Ukawa coalition led by Lowassa, said the arrest of its volunteers was part of a government bid to intimidate them.

“Police also confiscated computers and mobile phones of our volunteers who were tallying results of the presidential election,” Chadema lawyer John Malya said. 

There was no immediate comment from the government. Police Commissioner Paul Chagonja said some arrests were made due to “violations of electoral procedures” at a Chadema tallying centre. He did not give details.

CCM and the opposition parties posted observers at most polling stations, sending results to their own centres.

Two independent polls had forecast a presidential and parliamentary victory for CCM, although experts expected the party’s parliamentary majority to dwindle after the opposition united behind a single candidate for the first time.

The electoral commission for the nation of 47 million said the presidential winner would be announced on Thursday.

Lowassa, who quit the CCM after the party spurned him as their candidate, said he would not concede if he did not deem the election fair. The opposition has in the past accused the government and CCM of abuses. Officials deny this.

Both Magufuli and Lowassa have drawn tens of thousands of people to rallies, vowing to curb power outages, halt corruption and deliver economic growth to lift more people out of poverty.


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